Supervisor/Subordinate Fairness

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about fair treatment:

If senior management gives take-home cars to the subordinates and does not give a take-home car to this subordinate’s direct supervisor, what are the unwritten rules that this violates when it comes to good management? I know this is not a legal matter, but I am trying to locate an article, etc, that will address the fallout from this type of decision making and how it can adversely affect the state of the organization. These cars are simply for traveling to work and back and to use for personal matters etc., not for work itself. The supervisor of the subordinate has to drive his own car, use his own gas, etc, while his subordinate uses the company car and gas card.

Signed, Take-Home Query

Dear Take-Home Query:

One of the unwritten rules for any organization is to create and follow a fairness doctrine. Your question springs from a sense of fairness; fair granting of perks according to rank. Your query also begs the question: why should a take-home car be made available to a subordinate but not the one who ranks above? And is that playing favorites? Bureaucratic protocol follows the unwritten rule that playing favorites is made out of bounds by written rational policies. In short, good managers follow the “no surprise-know-what-to-expect” and “rank-has-its-privileges” rules that are made explicit in a corporate policy book.

Your question appears to be motivated by resentment of senior management and consequently you asked about articles and books that define the fall out caused by less than good management practices. The resentment that prompts your query is rooted in the strengths and shortcomings of bureaucracy that sociologist trace from ancient to modern times. My favorite is a very small text by Theordore Caplow, How To Run Any Organization. Rob Redmond has a list of books for “Struggling Managers” http://strugglingmanager.com/2008/04/ His list includes sociologist Theodore Caplow’s.

If you are much interested in how organizations work and their rules designed to make power and division of labor efficient, examine Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization and articles about his theory, such as John Kilcullen “Max Weber: On Bureaucracy” http://www.humanities.mq.edu.au/Ockham/y64l09.html also read about its history and shortcomings in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bureaucracy Of course you can read about the unhappy consequence of favoritism in many places and find a host of Q&As about coping with it in our archives, but the issue for you is: what you will do with this seemingly unfair act that aggravates you? Will you tell your coworkers that senior management is stupid or at least it lacks good management practices by giving a perk to one at a lower rank than to his superior? That is one thing that you might feel is justified. In doing so, of course, you will place yourself in an adversarial role to management. Will you rather investigate what possible reasonable reason there might be for the take-home perk to this one in a lower position, and if can find no justification for it, will you have the courage or guts to voice your concern to the appropriate ones who did this? I assume your query for you is not an academic exercise. That rather you want to both learn what is good and less good management and also to right what might be a wrong.

Organization is really a verb as well as a noun. That is to say, organization is an on-going process. It is all that goes into making a workplace efficient and effective; both communicating and rule-making. It is also relational in both the sense of nurturing mutually beneficial interpersonal relationships and in the macro sense of hammering out the political distribution and allocation of power. Sooo you undoubtedly are a player in all of this because your query shows you care. I would be interested in what you learn if you investigate and what action you elect to take if you choose not to bite your tongue. Interested also in how you view my signature sentence applies to you and to those with whom you work: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS.

William Gorden